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Fort Leonard Wood Returns To In-Person Graduations

Dawn Arden
Fort Leonard Wood
Soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood graduate Basic Combat Training in May. Family and friends will soon be able to watch their soldier graduate in person at Fort Leonard Wood once again with precautionary measures in place, after COVID-19 mitigation protocols forced leaders to hold ceremonies virtually.

Soldiers training at Fort Leonard Wood are once again allowed to have their families attend their graduation ceremonies.

Col. Richard Ball, chief of staff at the military installation in Pulaski County, said the ceremonies shown on Facebook were not the same. It’s been more than a year since the coronavirus pandemic moved basic training, advanced individual training and officer training graduations online.

“The music, the sunshine, watching families in the stands pick out their loved ones in the crowd, it’s important, and I’m glad we’re back to that,” Ball said.

Ball said he specifically loves a certain moment that happens at every graduation. “The stunned look on the parents’ faces, of the changes that they see, all in a good way. It’s a pretty amazing sight, actually.”

Ball said for many soldiers, especially those graduating from basic training, it’s the first time their family has seen them in months, and it may be the longest they have been away from home.

Ball said it’s good for the whole country to have graduations in person.

“It’s very much reconnecting the Army with the American citizen and family. And it’s very much the ability to show that transition from citizen to soldier,” Ball said.

In-person graduations are also good for the local economy, as families often stay overnight after traveling for the ceremonies.

While families are allowed back on post for graduations, social distancing will still be in place, and there may be additional regulations if weather conditions move a graduation indoors.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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